Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To speak or write evasively; equivocate. synonym: lie.
  • intransitive verb To behave in an evasive or indecisive manner, usually in delay.
  • intransitive verb To utter or say in an evasive manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To deviate; swerve from the normal or proper course; stray.
  • To swerve from the truth; act or speak evasively; quibble.
  • In law: To undertake a thing falsely and deceitfully, with the purpose of defeating or destroying the object which it is professed to promote.
  • To betray the cause of a client, and by collusion assist his opponent.
  • To pervert; cause to deviate from the normal or proper path, application, or meaning.
  • To transgress; violate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To shift or turn from one side to the other, from the direct course, or from truth; to speak with equivocation; to shuffle; to quibble.
  • intransitive verb (Civil Law) To collude, as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.
  • intransitive verb (Eng. Law) To undertake a thing falsely and deceitfully, with the purpose of defeating or destroying it.
  • transitive verb obsolete To evade by a quibble; to transgress; to pervert.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive, intransitive, obsolete To deviate, transgress; to go astray (from).
  • verb intransitive To shift or turn from direct speech or behaviour; to evade the truth; to waffle or be (intentionally) ambiguous.
  • verb intransitive, law To collude, as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb be deliberately ambiguous or unclear in order to mislead or withhold information

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin praevāricārī, praevāricāt-, to straddle across (something), collude (used of lawyers) : prae-, pre- + vāricāre, to straddle (from vāricus, straddling, from vārus, bow-legged, bandy).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the participle stem of Latin praevāricārī, from prae- with vāricāre, from vārus, from Proto-Indo-European *wā- (“to bend apart”) (the root of ‘various’).

Examples

Comments

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  • "Now, then, sir, don't prevaricate," he began - "don't prevaricate!"

    "I won't, sir," answered his son, mildly.

    "You will. With all my experience, I surely ought to know when a man is going to prevaricate or not," said his sire. "Now, sir, I am going to ask you a plain question, and I want a plain answer. I am a plain man, as you know."

    (Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours (1879), by Frank Leslie)

    August 5, 2008

  • Why should we prevaricate, just at the last? We never prevaricated before. I have got to die some time, and it's better to die when one is sick than when one is well.

    Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

    November 13, 2011

  • to speak in an evasive way

    The cynic quipped, “There is not much variance in politicians; they all seem to prevaricate”.

    October 11, 2016